With signs of voter discontent over coalition policies, the Government’s policy on cuts has led one disabled politician to review his position, says Sunil Peck
A disabled councillor has decided to step down in protest at Government plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Ollie Flitcroft, a wheelchair-user, is one of the first Conservatives to criticize ministers publicly for targeting disabled people disproportionately with cuts.
Cllr. Flitcroft served as a Conservative member of Barrow Borough Council since 2006. It remains to be seen what impact his protest has on Government policy.
According to Cllr. Flitcroft, the Government’s claim that the application process for DLA requires self-assessment is “nonsense”. He also said it was ”ludicrous” for the Government to suggest that a wheelchair-user capable of propelling themselves short distances might not need a mobility component of DLA.
“Why does the Government want to spend a lot of money on reassessing every single claimant, some of whom have impairments that will not improve. I’m not suddenly going to be able to walk tomorrow, so why have I got to go through an assessment?”
Cllr. Flitcroft does say that the Government needs to clear the country’s debts. But he says that ministers should look to bankers’ bonuses and tax avoiders to recoup money.
“I think many disabled people will say we’ve been involved in a war in Iraq, we’re engaged in a war in Afghanistan and now we’re going into Libya.
“But my right to independence is being put at risk. How is that fair in a just society?”
Despite his anger, Cllr. Flitcroft has been pondering his position for months.
Although the decision was a hard one to take, he regrets that his decision to stand down has left the UK with one fewer disabled councillor.
“I’ve enjoyed being a councillor and I’ve met many great people doing fantastic work.
“It wasn’t a decision I made overnight. I thought to myself: can I stay a councillor and influence the Government? I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t, and that I couldn’t remain a Conservative councillor, given what they are planning to do.”
It “flabbergasts” Cllr. Flitcroft that the decision to cut DLA is being presided over by David Cameron, because he had a disabled son.
He also describes the Conservative MP Paul Maynard as being “misguided” for toeing his party’s line on DLA.
“We already know the cuts are having a detrimental effect on disabled people. Instances of hate crime have risen and people are being pushed into poverty and isolation because of the cuts, and the changes to DLA will make it worse.”
Cllr. Flitcroft says that he hopes his action will add to the pressure on government to rethink its plans to abolish DLA.
“They tried to sell off the forests and backed down from that. It looks like the policy on the mobility component of DLA for people in residential care is in chaos, and I think they need to stop this rebranding of DLA and the planned reassessments of everyone.
“We need to look at how we apply DLA in a fairer way. Replacing it with personal independence payments isn’t going to help anybody.”